Georgia called most of its running plays out of the shotgun against Notre Dame. Judging by what a couple of key offensive contributors had to say Tuesday, expect more of this in the near future.
When it came to the run game, Georgia was primarily a shotgun-oriented team against the Fighting Irish. Excluding the three kneel-downs at the end of the game, the Bulldogs went with 29 run plays out of the shotgun compared to 11 from under center. And three of those under-center runs came when Georgia tried to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, prior to punting the ball to Notre Dame for its final offensive possession.
This is an element Georgia has worked on since the spring, which came after offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said he wanted to “freshen up” the offense. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn said that is exactly what Chaney has tried to do while figuring out ways to spark the run game.
“Every day we walk in it seems Coach Chaney has a new scheme,” Wynn said. “We’re constantly working, constantly grinding.”
Under center, Georgia totaled 63 yards on 11 carries against Notre Dame, although that included a 40-yard run from D’Andre Swift on a motion sweep. Without that play, the Bulldogs averaged only 2.3 yards per carry under center. With true freshman Jake Fromm at quarterback, Notre Dame brought a lot of defenders near the line of scrimmage to play the run.
Out of the shotgun, Georgia totaled 128 yards on 29 carries, which was good for 4.4 yards per carry. The Bulldogs were able to hit four plays for 10 yards or more — including a 30-yard run from Nick Chubb that was close to going the distance — and also added a 6-yard touchdown from Sony Michel that likely would have gone longer if they weren’t near the end zone.
Chubb said the shotgun runs help because most of them are run-pass options, giving the quarterback the ability to pull the ball from the runner and attempt a throw if he sees something open up downfield.
“It helps because Jake has options to not give whoever the ball and pass the ball somewhere else,” Chubb said. “They have to be on their heels. They can’t worry too much about the run because it will hurt them with the pass.”
Head coach Kirby Smart said that Georgia has worked diligently on softening the opposition’s box defenders. While this doesn’t directly correlate to the shotgun, that’s the best method to execute run-pass option plays. That, in essence, is why Georgia was so shotgun-heavy with its run game against the Irish.
Improving the run game has been a focal point since the 2016 season ended.
“It’s been a conscious effort to loosen up the box,” Smart said. “It doesn’t have to be the gun. I think most of the time when you open formations up, the gun helps you. Any time you throw RPOs, it helps to be from the gun because it’s hard to do that under center. So the conscious effort has been to loosen it up but not necessarily with the shotgun. But I think the two go hand in hand.”